The whole thing started with two young ETH mechanical engineering students, Carlo Loderer and David Ballagi. They took a semester off in autumn 2015 to focus on their university project, a bag-based self-service wardrobe, and to get a feeling if there is a market for their solution.
David left for Hungary and got busy looking for welders and steel fabricators. Carlo rather randomly picked up the phone and called a wide variety of people. These ranged from the event sector to clubs, museums, shopping centers, in fact everywhere where self-service wardrobes could be found. The young team had first renderings, quote Carlo "rudimentary sales documents". That's all there was at the time.
After a few more or less successful encounters, it was supposed to work out at Migros Aare in a shopping center called Westside in Bern. It was fortunate for the two that their future customer was looking for a wardrobe service. The product idea with the flexible locker bags was convincing despite the highly unprofessional appearance. Imagine Carlo sitting in front of the CEO of Westside and not having an answer on how much his product should cost. Under pressure, Carlo named CHF 4,500, whereupon the counterpart started laughing and said that for a high-tech product of this kind, at least CHF 10,000 had to be charged and that otherwise, his company would go bankrupt very quickly.
Carlo, encouraged by this realisation, directly called David and together they founded the Atana Engineering GmbH within two weeks. The offer for the first system was sent to Migros Aare Genossenschaft in the same breath and was accepted only a short time later. The dream of the first sale thus came true for the young founders.
So far, so good. The following scenario was a lot harder than the two students probably imagined. With the first order, the problem only started. How were they supposed to produce a functioning product in such a short amount of time? All they had were drawings, nothing more. In the second part of our series, find out how the first locker system was built and what challenges Carlo and David encountered along their way.